Archive for December, 2011

NLRB postpones effective date of rights posting rule to April 30
The National Labor Relations Board has agreed to postpone the effective date of its employee rights notice-posting rule at the request of the federal court in Washington, DC hearing a legal challenge regarding the rule. The Board’s ruling states that it has determined that postponing the effective date of the rule would facilitate the resolution of the legal challenges that have been filed with respect to the rule. The new implementation date is April 30, 2012.

New NLRB rule may be high-water mark for Obama-era labor reform
With a 2-1 vote, the National Labor Relations Board yesterday finally adopted a controversial rule that seeks to speed up union elections by delaying most of employers’ election eligibility appeals until after the election is held. It will take effect on April 30, 2012. The rule change is one of the few pieces of labor law reform to occur since President Obama’s inauguration.

Report: Nurses continue to battle workplace-related pain; worker safety efforts have improved
Roughly 80% of nurses continue to work through neck, back and shoulder pain acquired on the job, according to a survey. But the same survey also had good news: the nursing profession is safer than it was 10 years ago due to increased use of safety equipment.

Nurse who contracted HIV with jab sheds anonymity
Mary Magee is Jane Doe. Twenty-four years ago she was a young nurse, just two months into a job on San Francisco General Hospital’s HIV/AIDS ward, when she accidentally stuck herself with a needle while changing a patient’s intravenous line. She tested positive for HIV six weeks later – the first such documented case in a health care worker at the hospital and only the 13th in the country.

Steffy: A new chapter for Deepwater Horizon survivor
Chad Murray was one of the last people off the Deepwater Horizon. He twice fought his way back through the burning, debris-strewn living quarters to help rescue injured co-workers, risking his life to save them from the smoke and flames. Earlier this year, he settled his legal claims with Transocean, the rig’s owner and his former employer, and while he can’t discuss the terms, he said he accepted a lower settlement so he could move on with his life.

Four ex-players sue NFL alleging brain damage
Four former National Football League players, including two Pro Bowl players, sued the league over brain injuries that they say left them facing medical problems years after their careers ended.

ASU Student Who Jumped Off Arizona Republic Building Was Newspaper’s Intern, Sources Say
An Arizona State University student who jumped off the Arizona Republic building in downtown Phoenix last night in an apparent suicide attempt was an intern at the newspaper, sources tell New Times.

Public Citizen’s Workplace Health & Safety Digest takes a holiday break
We’ll return in 2012! Have a happy and safe holiday season.

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Feds cut hours truckers can work
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced a final rule aimed at preventing fatigue-caused truck crashes by reducing the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week. The revision of hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements comes despiteover opposition from the truck industry and conservative lawmakers, who said the industry had already improved its safety record and that the bill would be too costly. The rule cuts the total number of hours a driver can work with a week to 70 — down from a previous average of 82.

New rules for pilots are given wide praise
New rules aimed at combating pilot fatigue won widespread praise Wednesday from the Families of Continental Flight 3407, other safety advocates and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

FAA’s pilot fatigue prevention rule could translate to other occupations
Catastrophic airline crashes can result. It strikes me that workers in other industries—-critical care nurses, fire fighters, overnight road construction crews, etc.—may also be at risk of severe fatigue. Some of it may be self-induced, but other may be directly related to how their organization schedules these individuals’ work and the demands of it.

Agency task force conducting ‘top-to-bottom review’ of ‘model workplaces’ program
A federal task force is conducting a “top-to-bottom review” of a controversial program that exempts “model workplaces” from regular safety inspections, a Department of Labor official confirmed this week. The review is focusing in part on “legitimate concerns” raised earlier this year in a Center for Public Integrity investigation, said Jordan Barab, the No. 2 official at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which runs the program.

Wall Street reform opens firms’ mine safety records
The new Wall Street reform law will make it difficult for big corporations involved in mining—like the former Massey Energy—to hide their safety records from shareholders and the public. Yesterday, the Security and Exchange Commission adopted new rules that cover how companies must disclose the mine safety information. That information was required as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Senators ask labor secretary to withdraw ‘misguided’ child farming regulations
Thirty senators are calling on Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to withdraw immediately proposed federal rules that would limit the work that young people can perform on farms. Led by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the senators have asked Solis to rethink her department’s “misguided” attempt to revise child labor laws for agriculture.

NFL makes 2 changes in concussion protocols
The NFL is changing how it handles concussion examinations after Browns quarterback Colt McCoy went back into a Dec. 8 game without being tested for one. A certified athletic trainer, paid by the league, will be at each game to monitor play and provide medical staffs with “any relevant information that may assist them in determining the most appropriate evaluation and treatment,” the NFL said in a statement Wednesday.

Kardashian sweatshop scandal stirs rumors of child laborers, unsafe factories
Are the Kardashians unknowingly sponsoring child labor? Star Magazine published a report today, according to Radar Online, alleging that several of the Kardashian family’s lifestyle and fashion brands, including ShoeDazzle and Kris Jenner ‘Kollection’ for QVC, are manufactured in sweatshops that employ underage and overworked laborers.

Overweight? You may be getting paid less
Two out of three Americans are overweight, and it’s affecting their paychecks. A report released by researchers at George Washington University found a connection between obesity and smaller paychecks—even more so among women.

OSHA nails five contractors for hazards at casino construction site
OSHA has cited five contractors for a total of 19 alleged serious violations of workplace health and safety standards at the former Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y., which is being converted into a casino. The citations carry a total of $127,400 in proposed fines.

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Corporations are parents! Support for child labor goes mainstream
Newt Gingrich drew plenty of ire when he promoted child labor as a solution to the ‘lack of work ethic’ among America’s youth. Gingrich may be leading in the polls for the GOP nomination but the specifics of his platform aren’t exactly mainstream. After all, what other politician would support such an anachronism as child labor? The answer: 30 US Senators, including four Democrats.

Walberg seeks to better define roles of federal, state worker safety agencies
Republicans in Congress may seek to more clearly define the roles of federal and state worker safety agencies to minimize businesses’ exposure to multiple layers of government enforcement, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, said in a Dec. 14 interview with BNA.

Hours of service rule could be published as soon as tomorrow
The revised hours of service rule has been cleared by the White House Office of Management and Budget, and is expected to be released soon, perhaps tomorrow. The stage is set for its arrival. Trucking interests have said they will sue if the new rule is too restrictive, safety advocates have reserved the right to resume their suit if the rule is not to their liking, and Republicans on Capitol Hill are poised to make an issue out of what the Obama administration does.

FAA to announce final pilot fatigue rule
Passengers nodding off while on commercial flights soon may get more assurance that the pilots aren’t doing the same thing. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to announce details Wednesday of the final pilot fatigue rule governing how much time off pilots have between work periods.

NBC-17’s manhole investigation may lead to changes in Durham
The City of Durham, N.C., is proposing changes to the bid process to better ensure the safety of employees working on public contracts in the city. This comes after two men suffocated inside a manhole earlier this year.

Has controversial coal baron Don Blankenship made a new home in east Tennessee?
It’s usually unalloyed good news when Tennessee industrial recruiters sweet-talk a baron of industry into relocating to the Volunteer State, but it’s tough to find any Tennessean who’s ready to roll out the welcome mat for Don Blankenship. In fact, it’s tough to find anyone who is willing to speak on the record about the former CEO of Massey Energy who dropped out of sight after he was forced to retire a year ago, just days after he was dubbed the “dark lord of coal country” in an extensive Rolling Stone expose. This month, reports have been circulating that he has relocated his home base to Johnson City, Tenn.

8 charged in death of fellow soldier, U.S. Army says
The U.S. Army said that eight U.S. soldiers were charged in connection with the Oct. 3 death of a fellow soldier in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Pvt. Danny Chen, a 19-year-old from New York, N.Y., was found in a guard tower at Combat Outpost Palace with what the Army described as “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.” In a statement, the military said the eight soldiers from Chen’s company faced charges ranging from dereliction of duty, assault, negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter.

US Labor Department’s OSHA orders Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad Co. to reinstate, pay more than $300,000 to terminated whistleblower employee in Idaho
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad Co. to immediately reinstate an employee in Idaho who was terminated after reporting a work-related injury. OSHA also has ordered the company to pay the employee more than $300,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and punitive damages.

Paint company will pay $1.65m in Colorado fire deaths
A California specialty painting company pleaded guilty Monday to five counts of violating federal workplace safety rules that resulted in the deaths of five workers at a Colorado power plant in 2007. Under terms of its plea agreement, RPI Coating Inc., of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., will pay $1.65 million in penalties and compensation, with most of that amount going to the victims’ families.

Company faces fines, violations for deadly crash at Russian Ridge
A company working for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was cited for two “serious” violations of state worker safety rules in connection with a deadly truck rollover crash in May. Habitat restoration firm Go Native allowed laborers to ride standing up in the bed of a 1997 Dodge Ram and had not installed guard rails around the truck bed, according to a Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health report issued last month. The Dodge tumbled about 300 feet down a slick, rain-soaked hill at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve near La Honda on May 26, killing 26-year-old Luis Audelo-Partida of Newark.

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GOP wants to make unemployment more humiliating
Timothy Noah notices some unpleasant provisions tucked away in the House GOP’s proposed unemployment insurance reforms: The GOP-sponsored House bill (text) reforms [unemployment insurance] by 1.) loosening requirements on how states spend federal unemployment funds, which flow through them; 2.) tightening the requirement that all benefit recipients look for work (mandatory job interviews, etc.); 3.) allowing states to require recipients to pass a drug test; and, 4.) if you lack a high school diploma or GED, enrolling in a GED program (”and making satisfactory progress in classes”). The GED requirement is a new way to communicate that if you lack a job you must be in some way deficient.

Gingrich challenge to child-labor law backed in state capitals
Newt Gingrich isn’t the only Republican who wants to relax U.S. laws that have restricted work by children for more than seven decades. Republican governors and state lawmakers, who succeeded this year in curbing union powers, are pushing to revise their child-labor laws to help companies such as groceries get workers. Wisconsin will let employers treat teenagers as adults in pay and hours, and Maine lawmakers want to let companies keep teens working longer hours.

Does Romney oppose discrimination against gays?
Romney gives examples of not discriminating personally against his employees for being gay, but that is not the same thing as opposing workplace discrimination as a political matter. Romney is saying, to his credit, that he doesn’t practice workplace discrimination. One would hope that would go without saying in this day and age, but since Romney’s former opponent Herman Cain pledged not to appoint Muslims it’s probably worth stating outright. However, a politician could choose not to discriminate in his own hiring practices while refusing to extend that protection to gays throughout the government, much less to the private sector.

In gilded city, living wage proposal still stirs fears
There is an indefinable something about a so-called living wage bill that puts New York’s leaders at risk of breaking out in socialist hives. Advocates have amended, sanded down and liposuctioned their bill in hopes of pleasing the mayor and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn. But this bill strikes Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel, a former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, as dire.

40% of state drilling regulators have industry ties
More than 40 percent of officials regulating oil and gas production in the top drilling states, records show, come from the industry they are charged with policing. It is a degree of self-regulation enjoyed by few other industries, if any. And it heightens suspicion among critics of the nation’s drilling boom that companies are allowed to damage the environment with impunity.

Editorial: To improve mine safety, prosecute rogue operators
Even as federal officials were heralding this month’s $209 million settlement in one of the worst U.S. mining disasters in history, the families of the 29 men killed in that explosion were wondering: Isn’t anyone going to be prosecuted for our loved ones’ deaths? Good question. At least for now, the answer is no — a sad and unsatisfactory climax after nearly two years of criminal investigations, along with two damning reports that found mine owner Massey Energy put profits above safety and was so lax that it laid the groundwork for what one study called a “preventable” explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine.

Pity the elf slaves of online shipping
It’s worth considering how the hell those goods get to you, so fast, and for free, when the company you bought them from is posting profits in the millions, or even, in the case of Amazon, billions. Chances are, it’s via the people who worked for the small businesses we ruined when we were saving $4 by buying stuff off the internet, people performing dangerously repetitive or otherwise ergonomically unsound jobs in a cold, shitty, emotionally abusive warehouse for very little money and very few benefits, the kind of conditions people endure only because it’s their last resort.

The new blue collar: Temporary work, lasting poverty and the American warehouse
Like nearly everyone else in Joliet without good job prospects, Uylonda Dickerson eventually found herself at the warehouses looking for work. The experience would change the way Dickerson saw the retail industry — particularly during the frenetic run-up to the holidays, when workers are under tremendous pressure to get products out the door and into stores. “I don’t think people know what the people in those warehouses have to go through to get them their stuff in those stores,” Dickerson says. “If you don’t work in a warehouse, you don’t know.”

OSHA gets a slight boost in federal budget
Despite predictions that lawmakers would cut OSHA funding back to 2006 levels, the agency will receive a slight increase during the remainder of the 2012 fiscal year, under the federal budget that has apparently been finalized by Congress. Aaron K. Trippler, Government Affairs Director for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), said the agency will receive approximately $8 million more than it did in the previous budget.

Won’t you help LA Times editorial board decide on condoms?
A curious posting showed up on the Los Angeles Times’ website today. Titled “Condoms in porn? What should we do?” by “The Times’ Opinion staff,” it asks for public comment regarding what position the Board should take on the ballot initiative by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) that would require FilmLA, the agency that issues filming permits in the city, to withhold permits for adult producers unless they agree to the following language in the permit contract.

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Budget deal undermines important regulations
The deal reached Thursday on an omnibus appropriations package to keep the federal government funded for another year undermines important public health and safety regulations, Public Citizen said. The package includes provisions that undermine worker safety, weaken the stability of the U.S. financial system and may weaken disclosure of election spending by government contractors. One budget rider would delay indefinitely the Mine Safety and Health Administration from issuing a regulation to protect miners from black lung disease.

Whether 50 or 5,000 or more, would pipeline jobs be safe jobs?
As Congress nears recess, legislative approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is still a possibility. Congressional Republicans and the American Petroleum Institute have said the Keystone XL pipeline could create 20,000 new jobs, as has the Teamsters union. The State Department estimate comes in at between 5,000 and 6,000, and a report from Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute concludes that the pipeline could ultimately “kill more jobs than it creates,” since most of the pipeline construction jobs would be temporary and costs of responding to related environmental health effects would lead to job cuts. Whatever the actual number, something I haven’t seen discussed is the safety of the jobs that would be associated with such a pipeline.

Powerful pipes, weak oversight
Through the hilly fields here in southwestern Pennsylvania, crews worked for months this year, cutting a trench through woods and past farms for a new natural gas pipeline. There was trouble on the job. Far too many of the welds that tied the pipe sections together were failing inspection and had to be done over. A veteran welder, now an organizer for a national pipeline union, happened upon the line and tried to blow the whistle on what he considered substandard work. But there was no one to call.

D.C. Circuit upholds OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy
The D.C. Circuit upheld OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy, in a decision yesterday against Summit Contractors Inc. OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy provides that an employer may under specified circumstances be cited for violations even if none of its own employees were exposed to the hazard.

Keeping kids out of silo deathtraps: Labor Dept. on verge of rule change
The Department of Labor is currently in the process of publishing a final rule that would prohibit workers under the age of 18 from working in a variety of dangerous farm occupations. Research shows that 15-year-olds working in agriculture are six times as likely to be killed in accidents as 15-year-olds working in other industries.

Wind industry accused of blowing off worker safety rule
Wind power is riding a strong breeze. In the last five years, generating capacity in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled. Clusters of tubular wind towers, rising up to 300 feet above ridgelines and gusty plains, are an increasingly familiar sight. But in the scramble to expand clean energy and green jobs, the wind industry has fallen short on worker safety. Thousands of the giant wind machines violate a federal requirement to give technicians who work inside the towers enough maneuvering space to get up and down their ladders safely.

It’s still difficult to be gay on the Hill
Even as corporate America becomes a more gay-friendly place, gay and lesbian employees on Capitol Hill say they still worry about a lack of legal protection against discrimination, vulnerability during heated political battles and whether to be open with their co-workers about their sexual orientation. To deal with these issues, a group of gay staffers restarted the LGBT Congressional Staff Association last year after it had been dormant for the past few years.

20 miners escape violent rock burst at Idaho silver mine, April and November incidents killed two workers
Just before 8:00 pm local time, a powerful burst of rock exploded in an area where at least 20 miners were working in the Lucky Friday mine. All the miners escaped to safety but several remain hospitalized. This silver mine in the Coeur d’Alene region has been the site of numerous serious incidents this year, including two fatalities.

City: Elevator was worked on hours before fatal accident
The elevator that killed a Madison Avenue advertising executive was undergoing maintenance in the hours before the fatal malfunction, and city officials said Thursday the work is at the center of their probe into what went wrong. The company was involved in another fatal mishap in September when a Transel employee, Robert Melito, fell down an elevator shaft and died while working at a building on West 38th Street.

Professor claims NYU fired him after he gave James Franco a ‘D’
James Franco’s tired James Dean act got an NYU professor booted from the school last year — after the teacher dared to give the overhyped Hollywood hunk a “D” for blowing off class, a lawsuit charges. José Angel Santana said he slapped the “127 Hours’’ star with the bad grade because he missed 12 of his 14 “Directing the Actor II” classes while pursuing a master’s in fine arts. Santana said he then suffered all kinds of drama — first from Franco, who publicly ridiculed him, then from his department, which axed him over the “D.”

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House GOP tries to end effort to ‘End Black Lung’
We’ve heard House Republicans talk quite a bit about how much they care about coal miners’ jobs … but what about those coal miners’ lives? You have to wonder, when you see the GOP leadership sticking riders into appropriations bills like this one, described in a summary of a funding bill for the Department of Labor: A prohibition on the implementation or enforcement of DOL’s “coal dust” rule until an independent assessment of the integrity of the data and methodology behind the rule is conducted.

Unemployment benefits: Democratic governors call on Congress to keep benefits
A coalition of Democratic governors called on lawmakers in a Thursday letter to reauthorize long-term unemployment benefits, a move that’s been tangled up in a debate now threatening to shut down the government at the end of the week.

Obama nominates two to NLRB. Will GOP block them and grind agency to halt?
Yesterday, President Barack Obama nominated two people to serve as members of the National Labor Relations Board: Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. Without at least one of the two nominations to the independent federal agency being confirmed, the board will lack the quorum that is required to issue decisions. Current Board Member Craig Becker’s term expires at the end of December.

Obama administration plan would raise wages of home health care workers
The Obama administration is seeking to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to cover home health care workers, a move that would boost living standards for nearly 2 million domestic employees but could mean higher costs for the elderly and disabled.

EPA allowed unsafe handling of asbestos, IG says
The Environmental Protection Agency has allowed the use of unapproved methods to demolish buildings containing asbestos, threatening public health and possibly violating worker safety rules, the EPA’s inspector general has concluded.

Experts compare erionite to asbestos, warn about health effects
Little is known about the health effects of erionite. Nevertheless, “airborne occupational erionite fiber exposures should be considered at least as hazardous as asbestos fiber exposures,” according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Industry sees no reason for new mine safety laws, despite MSHA report
The Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act failed to pass the House as critics called it ‘premature.’ More than 20 months after the UBB explosion, the National Mining Association wants to wait for more completed studies.

Victoria’s Secret revealed in child labor
This harvest is Clarisse’s second. Cotton from her first went from her hands onto the trucks of a Burkina Faso program that deals in cotton certified as fair trade. The fiber from that harvest then went to factories in India and Sri Lanka, where it was fashioned into Victoria’s Secret underwear — like the pair of zebra-print, hip-hugger panties sold for $8.50 at the lingerie retailer’s Water Tower Place store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

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BP awarded $27 million in leases for Gulf oil, gas exploration
BP is officially getting back into deep water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, the Interior Department announced on Wednesday. The British energy giant, responsible for the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history last year in the Gulf, won $27 million worth of leases to conduct new oil-and-gas exploration in the Gulf. The awards from the Interior Department came in the first Gulf lease sale since the BP spill last year, with all winning bids bringing $337.6 million into government coffers.

U.S. offshore drillers need new safety approach-panel
U.S. offshore oil and gas drillers need to take a more systematic approach to safety in all aspects of their operations to prevent another catastrophe like last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a scientific panel said on Wednesday. The National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council said in a report that it was a lack of comprehensive safety management that led to the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers.

It is irresponsible to allow BP to resume drilling in Gulf
It is inexcusable for the Obama administration to grant BP millions of dollars in leases to conduct exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico without any substantial new safeguards in place. Has the administration already forgotten the devastation caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster?

After Hershey scandal, State Dept. to review work visa program—but advocates want more
Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of the cultural exchange work visa program that foreign student workers and watchdog groups say has been exploited by businesses to employ short-term foreign workers at rates below the minimum wage. The federal program came to sudden prominence this past August, after about 400 guest workers—students from foreign countries on a four-month J-1 exchange visa—walked out of a warehouse run by a Hershey’s contractor after presenting a petition to management.

F.A.A. approves iPads in cockpits, but not for passengers
The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that pilots on American Airlines flights would be allowed to use iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit starting Friday, even during takeoff and landing. But, passengers are still required to shut down anything with the slightest electronic pulse from the moment a plane leaves the gate until it reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Brazilian Blowout still a threat, feds say
Beauty salons are likely to see increased business with people getting ready for holiday gatherings, and salon gift certificates will surely be given to mothers, daughters, secretaries and bosses in the holiday spirit. But in a release last week, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a sobering reminder that many of these salons are still exposing their workers to dangerous levels of formaldehyde, despite many months of warnings and investigations.

U.S. Labor Department’s OSHA proposes $110,000 in fines against New London, Conn., contractor for fall and other hazards at Old Lyme work site
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited G.A. Denison & Sons Inc. for 14 alleged willful and serious violations of workplace safety standards at an Old Lyme work site. The New London contractor faces a total of $110,000 in proposed fines. OSHA’s enforcement action follows an inspection opened June 7, when Denison & Sons employees were observed being exposed to falls from heights of 15–26 feet while working without protection on both a scaffold and the roof of a building located at 69 Lyme St.

Flexible schedules make workers healthier, happier
Companies that focus on results rather than face time in the office may end up with healthier employees, a new study shows. When management is more flexible about how and when a job gets done, workers get more sleep and exercise, have the time to make doctors’ appointments and are less likely to come to work sick, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

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